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idiomsandtheirmeaningsAn idiom is a phrase, or a combination of words, that has developed a figurative meaning through frequency of use. Idioms are a staple in many different languages, and are often shared across languages through numerous translations. They can be useful and even fun to use, but are also bound to confuse any new speaker of a language who isn’t familiar with the phrase’s cultural relevance.

For instance, what does it mean to “spill the beans,” and why is everyone making such a fuss over someone doing it? Why are they telling that person to “break a leg” on stage? It doesn’t look like that person has a “chip on their shoulder.”

This guide will go over a large list of common American English idioms and their meanings, along with examples to help you better understand the context you need to use them in. Before you start to focus too much on silly phrases like idioms, it’d be worth it to work on your English language fluency with a course like this.

Idioms Are a Piece of Cake!

Perhaps even more embarrassing than not understanding an idiom is misusing it. Because of how nonsensical the phrases can be – piece of cake? – you don’t want to get caught using them in an incorrect context. Take the idiom used in the header above: “Idioms are a piece of cake.” When you refer to something as a “piece of cake,” you’re calling it easy. In this context, the header is saying that idioms are easy to understand and use.

While it might seem like idioms are definitely not a piece of cake, to someone first learning about them, I can assure you, the more of them you hear and study, the easier they’ll be to accept as just a natural part of the English language! Let’s take a look at some examples.

List of Idioms and Their Meanings

The following list of idioms will be in alphabetical order, with an explanation and contextual example provided for easier comprehension.

actions speak louder than words

add fuel to the fire

all bark and no bite

at the drop of a hat

beating around the bush

a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

blessing in disguise

break a leg

chip on your shoulder

come hell or high water

cry over spilt milk

cut to the chase

hit the nail on the head

piece of cake

slap on the wrist

spill the beeans

taste of your own medicine

Consider taking an elementary English language course for beginners or this class on understanding real American English speech patterns for more information on the English language, and all of its quirks.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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English Idioms Launch: Upgrade your speaking and listening

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Learn English idioms from a native English teacher to take your spoken English and listening skills to the next level | By Anthony Kelleher

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